By Marianne David
‘Dress code’ for teachers or any public servant should be a personal choice of the wearer and as long as it is respectable and appropriate for the profession, teachers and public servants should be allowed to make their own choice, asserted Education Forum Sri Lanka Co-coordinator (EFSL) Dr. Tara de Mel, in an interview with The Sunday Morning Education.
Highlighting the absurdity of talking about a dress code at a time when the Sri Lankan education system was in deep crisis, Dr. de Mel pointed out that instead of micromanaging issues connected to teachers’ attire, the Government and Education Ministry should address the bigger problems at hand.
How do you view the dress code for teachers in Sri Lanka and the surrounding uproar these days?
I really don’t know why there is an ‘uproar’ or why there should be a ‘dress code’ for teachers or any public servant, for that matter. Shouldn’t it be a personal choice of the wearer? As long as it is respectable and appropriate for the profession, why can’t we allow teachers or any public servant to make their own choice?
Aren’t there far more important matters to pay attention to, especially given the massive challenges in terms of learning losses, cost of living, and so on, with many children missing out on education?
Undoubtedly! The Sri Lankan education system is in deep, deep crisis, with children dropping out of school due to the multiple crises we are facing and learning losses galore due to pandemic-led school closures and economic/food crisis-led issues, and many more. Yet, we are talking about a dress code!
How practical is it for teachers to wear saree as the standard attire? How does it enable the learning environment?
I think the best way to answer that question would be to invite males who promulgate these regulations to wear sari five days a week – wrapping six yards of cloth around them, each day at the crack of dawn – and then travel for hours by bus, or walk, or both, and then teach for several hours in school. And return by bus again.
Nearly 500 or more schools have poor sanitary facilities, with no flowing water on tap, and the monthly burden of menstruation adds to their woes – how would lady teachers cope? Is there anything more impractical? This is without mentioning the cost of a sari, which is so prohibitive today.
What should the attire for teachers ideally be?
Are teachers incapable of deciding for themselves what they should wear to school? As long as it is respectable and decent attire, why can’t the choice be given to them? Do we dictate what male public servants should wear to office? Just as much as we give males the freedom of choice, it’s high time we gave female public servants (and indeed, teachers) the freedom of choice.
Why does teachers’ attire cause such uproar in this country?
It doesn’t or shouldn’t. It’s when some short-sighted people in authority take this up as an issue that it becomes an uproar. Surely if anyone wants an issue, I don’t think there’s a shortage of issues connected to the education system in Sri Lanka. Let’s focus on the real issues and let’s create an uproar on those.
How should the Government and Education Ministry address this issue?
They shouldn’t. The more the Government and the Ministry interfere with such issues, the bigger the problems. Let them please not micromanage issues connected to teachers’ attire. I am sure they can find bigger problems to deal with, if they wished!